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Oswego expanding Park-n-Ride service

The Oswego Village Board says not enough people are taking advantage Park-n-Ride Pace bus keep service operating.

The Oswego Village Board says not enough people are taking advantage of the Park-n-Ride Pace bus to keep the service operating.

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Updated: September 19, 2012 10:02AM

The commuter link between Oswego and Chicago will get a little stronger come Jan. 1, after a vote from the Oswego Village Board approved a new service provider.

In a 4-2 vote, the board contracted with Kendall Area Transit to continue Park-n-Ride bus service after unanimously voting to end its contract with Pace.

Pace currently provides three trips each morning and evening between the Oswego Park-n-Ride lot at Orchard and Mill Roads and the Aurora Transportation Center, with an average of 25 riders daily over the last 12 months.

The board voted down a $106,000 contract to continue the service through 2013.

Instead, trustees contracted with Kendall Area Transit for a Park-n-Ride bus service, which will cost the village about $22,000 less than the Pace contract annually.

Additionally, it will provide more trips daily —five in the morning and five each evening — which village staff suggested would likely increase ridership. 

“I still think it’s a benefit to the community,” said Trustee Jeff Lawson. “I struggle with the free market telling us there’s no demand, but I wonder if we pushed in that direction by cutting routes. Maybe we can nudge it in the other direction.”

Ridership has dropped considerably since the inception of the Pace commuter service — first when the economy took a downturn, possibly keeping many Oswegoans from working in Chicago, and second, when Pace cut service from six trips a day to three, making the service less convenient for many commuters.

But in a memo, village staff said they anticipated ridership to increase under the KAT bus service because it would offer more trips and, thus, more flexibility.

More than 60 riders, on average, used the Park-n-Ride service each day before the number of rides was halved in 2010, according to the staff memo.

The increased ridership that may come as a result of the KAT contract could also be a boon for the village as it seeks to bring a rail commuter service into northern Kendall County.

Staff advised that the Park-n-Ride is an intermediate step in improving public transportation in Oswego and proof that there is demand for commuter rail.

“The long-term strategy of fostering the extension of BNSF rail service to the community will be best served maintaining a transit presence and continuing to demonstrate that Oswego is serious about rail,” read the memo.

Village Administrator Steve Jones said that at a Sept. 11 meeting, Metra representatives said that had the village voted to end Park-n-Ride service that “probably would have implications” for the project expanding the BNSF track to Oswego.

But Trustees Terry Michels and  Tony Giles said the current low ridership and possibility of future rail service still doesn’t justify the expense of the KAT Park-n-Ride contract.

“We’re looking at $84,000 for 25 riders a day,” said Giles. “Is that really serving the public? Or is the public’s money serving a couple dozen individuals? I think we’re spending too much for too few people.”

The village board also opted in the same 4-2 vote to contract with KAT for its Dial-A-Ride service, at a cost of $44,916.

The large van provides rides from and to anywhere in Kendall County, and to some medical facilities just beyond the county line.

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